Donnachadh McCarthy: The Home Ecologist

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The Independent Online

It has been an up-and-down time for the environment; two bits of good news and one of terrible news. The good news is the IEA report that UK petrol sales this year have fallen by 20 per cent and the car industry similarly reports a dramatic fall of 18 per cent in sales of 4x4s.

Balancing this, however, was the news of the alarming speeding up of the Arctic summer ice melt, which indicates means that the huge area of the Northern Hemisphere covered by permafrost will melt up to three times faster. This is truly frightening as that permafrost contains millions of tons of methane which, as it is released, will accelerate the climate crisis.

One of the easiest steps we can take to help slash the UK's contribution to global warming is to dry our clothes naturally. Sales of tumble driers have been climbing steadily, so that now more than 55 per cent of us possess one of these energy-guzzlers. The average tumble-drier uses between 3kWh and 5kWh per use – the equivalent of 300 to 500 energy-saving bulbs. This makes it one of the highest consumers of energy in our homes. EERA says that usage varies from 72 to 336 hours per year, costing between £43 to £200 to run annually. So drying clothes naturally will actually save you money.

Thankfully, you do not need expensive solar panels to take advantage of the sun. All you need to do is to hang the clothes outside or in a sunny room if you don't have a garden. I use a clothes horse, as I dislike all that fiddling around with pegs. It also means that I can easily bring the clothes inside if it looks like rain. It works equally well in winter placed near the wood burner, which dries the clothes nicely overnight without using any extra energy. Placing it beside a radiator if you have central heating will obviously work just as well.

If you cannot get a clothes horse locally then they cost as little as £14 on eBay. So you will be saving money in no time. Another good alternative is the laundry pulley-maid, which is usually hung in the bathroom and lowered by rope. does a nice version with FSC-certified wood.

EERA estimates that the combined emissions from all our tumble-drying is responsible for about 5 million tonnes of CO2, which is about 1 per cent of all UK energy emissions and the same as the entire water industry. Ditching the tumble dryer for a natural alternative is one positive step we must all take to help wean the UK off our life-threatening oil addiction.

Donnachadh McCarthy works as an eco-auditor and is author of 'Easy Eco-auditing'.